The ACS WASC Accreditation Process

ACS WASC is an abbreviation which means the following:

  • ACS – Accrediting Commission for Schools  – This portion of the WASC accredits K-12 schools.
  • WASC– Western Association of Schools and Colleges

ACS WASC is a non-profit, private, official academic body responsible for accreditation of universities, colleges, high schools, elementary schools.  Educational accreditation is a type of quality assurance process under which services and operations of educational institutions or programs are evaluated by an external body to determine if applicable standards are met. If standards are met, accredited status is granted by the appropriate agency. There are six official bodies in the United States and they cover different areas of the USA. The over 4,600 schools in WASC are mostly found in California and Hawaii. WASC also has an agreement with EARCOS, so most of the schools in Asia are accredited by WASC. Other American agencies cover different international associations. My previous schools in Latin America were with the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools and in Europe, most schools were with the New England Association of Colleges and Schools.

Accreditation is important for our students when they leave our school, the transcripts, report cards and diplomas are accepted by universities and other K-12 schools. The accreditation process also assists us with school improvement.

I am here in Bangkok to spend two days with the international consultants of WASC. My goal is to understand the similarities and differences between WASC and the other agencies I am more familiar with. I also want to reflect on the process at our school and make sure we are ready for the next visit.

My specific goals for the two days are as follows:

  1. Create a job description for the school WASC coordinator
  2. Simplify and further prioritize the schoolwide action plan, including separating the WASC and IB goals
  3. Use accreditation principles to get more input or feedback from the students
  4. Understand exactly where we are in the process (six years cycle) and how does it relate to the three IB programmes authorization cycle
  5. Figure out what level of evidence we need to keep and show to a visiting team

Accreditation Principles (“the big picture”)

These seven principles are the basis of accreditation. One of the consultants said that it is a good idea to use these as the basis of a job description of the school WASC coordinator.

  1. Accomplishment of the school mission, vision, beliefs and student learning results (Learner Profile).
  2. High academic achievement of all students
  3. Use multiple ways to analyze data about student achievement – student/staff feedback, examine student work, observing students engaged in learning
  4. Evaluation of the program effectiveness
    1. student learning results, “critical learner needs” academic standards
    2. meeting acceptable level of quality in accordance with the ACS WASC criteria
  5. Align prioritized findings into a schoolwide action plan
  6. Ongoing improvement/accountability
  7. Total involvement and collaboration of all stakeholders

The broader goals of the student learning results are very important because this is what is important for our students throughout their lives. We reach these through specific curricular goals.

Demographic data that I would like to add to our profile is as follows:

a) length of commute time

b) parent occupations / specific businesses owned

example – Ethiopia school had many families working for NGOs, curriculum reflected the values of community service;

c) percentage of long-term versus short-term students (student mobility)

d) a more in-depth nationality and language profile (mixed marriage, places lived, father vs. mother nationality) and language used at home, which is more important than passport data;

e) Where do the students live in the Osaka-Kyoto-Kobe megacity?

e) Which families call the school most often and what families are contacted by the school most often?

f) Collect data from the nurses office – what times, from what classes,

Student Performance Data

ex) Students are not talking in class or participating in class discussions.

  • How many initiate a discussion, how many actually speak – have people take tally sheets?  so what?
  • Is the teacher talking all the time? teacher talk vs. student talk minutes time

ex) Gender differences

ex) Have a summary page and share with community. The one example was a weakness in expository writing, which they called a critical learner need. 


Obtaining Student Feedback – An idea that came from the workshop would be to conduct student interviews. I would like to model for the faculty a student interview to get honest feedback. We would need a safe topic, so an idea would be middle school boys basketball. Interview several students with open-ended questions.

Schools need to put into a system of checking progress in action plans. Suggested to align the action plans under each of the criteria. Prioritize, some things need to get done first or how much can a school take on. The accreditation team wants to know if you have identified the most critical needs. WASC is not prescriptive.

There is no such date as “on-going” for action plans.

The visiting team committee validates, celebrates and gives advice for future steps. For all criteria, they have indicators, prompts, and some rubrics.

Is the action plan aligned to areas of greatest need?

WASC is about on-going school improvement and it is not a one-off.

In the final report to get it some coherence and so it reads well, like bullet points or not, active voice, capitalization, active voice, complete sentences, etc.

For IB schools, replace the curriculum section of WASC with the IB programs. Use the IB standards for the curricular portion of the report. Do not do the “B” section, only the “A”, “C”, “D”.

How do we get the stakeholders to critically look and assess our Student Learning Results?

other notes

  • Is the school doing everything possible to help all students learn?
  • The self-study is not 300 pages of description. Succinct, analytical, “what evidence led you to this conclusion?
  • We Are Student Centered WASC
  • It is a way to keep focused on improving your school
  • “we are doing it for WASC” – don’t say this

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